Since CCC has disappeared, my writing group has decided to do our own randomly generated word prompts. When I like how mine turns out, I’ll be posting them here. This is a little vignette from somewhere near the end of Pegasus Chained, my current sci-fi project.
Maybe it was luck, or fate, that saved his life. Maybe it was paranoia, or perhaps simple cowardice. Whatever the cause, something made David Bingle leave the battlefield that day.
The rebels had been cornered in their mountain base; they were surrounded, out-equipped and certainly outnumbered. David was flying in tandem with two other jets, sweeping the ground with his heat sensors for enemy forces hidden beneath the canopy. He spotted one, veered toward it and aimed his guns, but before he could open fire an emerald burst of energy shot out at him from his target. The beam was incredible—half as wide as his jet, despite being from a what was apparently a mobile ground unit.
The beam scored his plane; he never even had a chance to dodge. With an oath mumbled into his flight helmet, he struggled to return to his original flight path. The smoke coming from one wing scribed an arch across the sky and then leveled out as David compensated for the damage. The emergency fire suppression system kicked in and soon he was flying parallel with, if a little behind, his partners.
David’s heart still pounded in his chest as he reached the end of his sweep and turned back. The target was still there; it wouldn’t have moved far in the time it took him to double back. He was still furlongs behind his partners; they would probably disable the enemy before David even reached it.
Still half a mile from where he had encountered the ground unit, David turned hard. He could never explain why. His plane shot to the left and away from the enemy, just as the other two jets erupted in flame.
David felt his heart skip a beat as he glimpsed his wingmen’s doom, and it was long moments before he recovered his composure. By then he was miles from the battlefield, way outside of the sweep zone. Taking breaths as deep as a man could while screaming through the air at mach four, David steadied his hands and swung back around. So it was that he had probably the best view of all when the mountain blew.
It started as a glowing crack spreading from the top of Eleph Peak to its base, then another almost as fast as thought. A third and fourth appeared, spiderwebbing across the other two just slowly enough for the eye to register before the whole mountain shattered in a burst of molten stone.
Disbelieving, David altered course to circle the newborn volcano, not daring to go nearer the rapidly-expanding cloud of debris. A wave of panicked shouts crackled in his headset and then faded as his comrades, closer to the epicenter than he, died by the dozens. He saw a few aircraft dart away ahead of the blast—whether friend or foe he couldn’t have said—before the shockwave hit him.
It was like a tangible wall of wind, and it knocked him sideways, nearly plunging him into the jungle overgrowth. He was vaguely aware of trees being flung past him, but miraculously his plane remained intact. He managed to level off and rise above the maelstrom, turning his tail and running at full speed away from the expanding cloud. Only when he was once again miles away did he turn and look back.
The devastation was unbelievable. Every tree, bush and stone had been blown back in a ring five kilometers wide. The mountain itself was now no more than a rising cloud, mushrooming out at the top and lit from below with a red light. It was a crown fit for the coronation of a terrible and ancient god.
David lived to tell about that day, as did a handful of others who had been able to escape. They thought it was the end of the conflict, but they didn’t understand that they had just awakened a greater foe than they had ever faced before. It was only the beginning.